Lib Dems in liberalism shocker?
Nov 29, 2006
Bishop Hill

Brian Micklethwait was on 18 Doughty Street on Monday along with James Oates from Cicero's Songs. One of the best things I've seen on the station so far.

Before the show went out Brian seemed to have been pretty suspicious of James. In a posting on his blog earlier in the day he had this to say:

[W]hen you meet a Liberal Democrat you never know what he will believe.  The one who talks to you is likely to say what you want to hear.  But the others will simultaneously be telling other people with quite different views what they want to hear.  So don’t vote for these lying creeps.  At least the two leading parties do stand for a recognisable attitude that unites their members, although less and less as time goes by.

Having had some correspondence with James and having been favourably impressed (EU-enthusiasm excepted), I was interested to know what Brian made of him.  The answer was..

I liked the guy, and he convinced me that the Lib Dems may indeed be moving towards a more principle classical liberalism than was the case in former years.

Which I thought was quite an interesting thing to say. I've spent quite a lot of time hanging around LibDem blogs in the last year or so, trying to assess just this issue. I so think that, in common with the rest of the blogosphere, there is a libertarian feel to the LibDem blogs. Cicero is sound, Jock Coats is sound. Liberal Review is pretty good too, although some of their guest posters occasionally come up with some good old fashioned statism. Whether the rest of the party is liberal too is another question - as a commenter to a post of Jock Coats about the political compass makes clear. Tom Papworth of Liberal Polemic says:

I expect there are a lot of us in the truly liberal bottom-right. Just none of our leaders. This is the lamentable lot of the liberal!

How right he is. As an example of just how statist the party remains, take a look at this thread on the Liberal Democrats Youth and Students forum (an excellent site, by the way, with a well-mannered clientele - but my God, the statism, the statism!)

The problem seems to me to be that the Lib Dems are still effectively two parties. There is a liberal wing, and a social democrat wing -it just hasn't been exposed because the LibDems are never going to win an election outright and so are never subject to the same scrutiny as the other parties.

Mind you, the Conservatives are just as split with the big-state, "one-nation" wing apparently having the upper hand at the moment, and the small-state libertarians in retreat.

It's very, very sad that the liberal movement is split between two parties and has found itself in the minority in both. This is the tragedy of liberalism in the UK.

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